Dragons from Komodo to Rinca. Komodo National Park, Indonesia, July 2011.

Not afraid of Komodo dragons!

  Indonesia: Flores + Komodo + Bali - July 2011

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

Dragons exist, I met them! Scales, claws, forked tongue, everything is there... Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph these big prehistoric lizards or "varans" which live in the archipelago of Komodo, in Indonesia.

Hunter of dragons

Indiana Jones can go get dressed. Not happy to take me for a princess on the PaschaI also became an intrepid adventurer and dragon hunter on the island of Rinca (pronounced "Rine-tcha").

Dragons from Komodo to Rinca. Komodo National Park, Indonesia, July 2011.

With that of Komodo - in the archipelago of the same name - Rinca is the other island where tourists are landed to meet the famous Komodo dragons. They are very big lizards, of the family of the varans. They are endangered and protected. It would remain between 4 000 and 5 000 in the region of the Lesser Sunda Islands, in Indonesia.

Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph them for you... Not even afraid!

Prehistoric monsters

Komodo dragon. Rinca Island, Indonesia, July 2011.

Komodo dragon. Rinca Island, Indonesia, July 2011.
One of the dragons deigns to show us its forked tongue... (Rinca Island, Indonesia, July 2011)

Admire the big ugly claws, the prehistoric scales, the forked tongue! These monsters have been feeding fears and fantasies since the beginning of the 20th century, when Westerners discovered them.

It is the expedition of the American William Douglas BurdenHe brought back two live specimens and we owe him the expression "Komodo dragons". This expedition even inspired the plot of the film King Kong by Cooper and Shoedsack in 1933! Three of his stuffed monitors can still be seen in the American Museum of Natural History.

Komodo monitor attacks on a child (in 2007) and a fisherman (in 2009), and the story of this small group of divers stranded on the island of Rinca (in 2008), who had to fend off a lizard by throwing rocks at it, continue to maintain the fear of these charming creatures.

Attention, danger!

That said, the dragons of Komodo may have become a tourist attraction, but it is better to be wary of them. The rangers who show you the island are armed with long forked sticks. It is not to entertain the gallery or just for the pictures. It's to repel the intrepid giant lizard that might be tempted to approach.

Komodo dragon. Rinca, Indonesia, July 2011.Komodo monitors measure 2.50 to 3 meters long, including the tail. It was long believed that their saliva contained highly toxic bacteria. In fact, like other reptiles, they have venom glands [see section "Venom and bacteria"]. on Wikipedia]. A bite can be fatal.

You would think they were slow and clumsy when you find them huddled, snoozing, near the garbage cans of one of the ranger bungalows, which serves as a kitchen. But they are incredibly fast and agile.

The rangers-guides propose to take the photos to prevent the imprudent tourists from coming too close. A small group of visitors took possession of the terrace in overhang to better observe them, when we arrive.

It is really recommended not to get too close. The dragons are used to human presence, they know that they can find food in the area. But they remain wild animals, with unpredictable reactions. Courageous, but not reckless, I wisely stay at a distance, following the rangers' instructions. Indiana Jones would have done the same.

Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.
Here I am, ready to face the dragons! (Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011)

Each one then leaves to explore the island, preceded by a ranger armed with a forked stick.

I admit, I am a little disappointed not to have met any other dragons on the way. The only ones I saw - and photographed - were the ones hanging out near the rangers' lodgings.

Under the sun of Rinca

The island of Rinca is arid. A savannah landscape, with very little shade, overhanging the azure of the water. Some palm trees here and there.

Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.
Walk on the island of Rinca (Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011)

Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.

The only big animal we came across during this little expedition was a wild buffalo. I was only afraid afterwards. When I realized that the buffalo was not tied up.

Well yes, used to those of the rice fields, I did not think of it at first. We are in a natural reserve, here! The animals are free. It can be as dangerous as a varan, a wild buffalo...

Rinca. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.Two hours of walking in full sun. But the ride is worth it.

Jerome, my guide diving on the PaschaWe had the chance to see the island from a different angle. And our guide-ranger, adorable, stops regularly to show us the natural curiosities of the island: edible fruits imprisoned in a calabash, whose name I forgot. Water hens hidden in the mangrove. Holes dug by female monitor lizards, where they lay their eggs. A monkey hanging high in a tangle of branches.

At each turn of the path, I watch, hoping for a monitor. But no. Nothing. Another water hen.

My soul of Indiana Jones and my bravery begin to melt under this merciless sun. We share the sips of water which remain at the bottom of the bottles. When the walk ends, it is with happiness that I find the hut with memories of the rangers, where I buy no wooden figurine with the effigy of the dragons, but where I draw a new energy, in the shade, to sip an almost fresh Coke.

A tip to our guide and here we are ready to re-embark on the Pascha. I am a little sad. Because it is also my last day in the Komodo archipelago...

But I still have a few things to show you. There are more than just land animals with teeth around here: there are plenty underwater too (Indiana Jones, get out of that body!).

See you in the next article with ... komodo sharks !


  Indonesia: Flores + Komodo + Bali - July 2011

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  1. Hurry! Hurry! the continuation! it is exciting...
    The story I just read reminds me of some of the adventures of Bob Morane, read in my childhood... a precursor of Indiana Jones in a way!
    Bravo for the text 🙂 and the photos 😉

  2. Hey, we tracked down Lara Croft!!!! A real adventuress. 😛
    Great pictures, I had found the iguanas of Bonaire to be already of good size, but this is really impressive ❗
    Komodo sharks ... oh, oh, definitely the rest !!

  3. @Ysbilia: Bob Morane !!! 😆 I'm very flattered... More coming soon !!!!

    @Fabrice: But yes, I say it in the article: they are considered to be endangered and therefore protected. In fact, it is even for them, to preserve the species, that the Komodo National Park was created, in 1980.
    As for the rest, I don't know if this protection has had a positive impact and allowed to see the number of individuals increase since then. Let's hope so. Even if the presence of the dragons also poses problems with certain villages. People don't appreciate to see these creatures getting bolder and prowling near their homes. We understand them! It always poses complicated problems, the protection of animals, especially if it is the local populations who suffer from it...

    @Mathieu: But nothing ... The sequel is coming soon!

    @Laurence: Indiana Jones, Bob Moran, and now Lara Croft!!! Yeah... I love it !!!!

    @ Oceane971caraibes: The dragons are still there... Good for them, and for us who have the chance to go and observe them. It is really fascinating.

  4. Nice report, bravo ! I had never seen these famous lizards from so close.
    I'm a city traveler, a real chicken (... a water chicken ;), able to stay awake all night because my bungalow is really too close to the jungle... But from my computer, it's perfect : I'm waiting impatiently for the sharks.

  5. Ah yes, it's not convenient these little beasts 😉 . But I didn't think you could get that close to them. I had also heard that their bite could be deadly because of the infection it causes.

  6. Ah, dragons, both fascinating and a bit clumsy. You can't imagine how fast they can be in front of a prey and how dangerous they can be because of the unidentified bacteria in their saliva.

    I saw them swimming, and one of them wanted to climb on my boat (motorized, fortunately for me!). I was in a bit of a tizzy at the time.

    I told about it on my blog too, and on the last issue of Repéages Voyages. You never forget the Komodo dragons once you've seen them, do you?

  7. Nice article for disturbing beasts.
    A simple stick is enough to remove them?
    Maybe we will know with the article about komodo sharks 😉
    Thank you in passing for all these trips.

  8. @Marine @Arnaud: I didn't get too close, don't worry... The zoom of the camera allows me to photograph them from far away. And then, frankly, the visits are very well organized, adapted to all types of visitors. No need to be Indiana Jones, really! As I explained earlier in the article, the saliva of these charming creatures contains toxic bacteria, and a bite can be fatal, so it is better to keep your distance...

    @Alex: You can find monitor lizards everywhere in Southeast Asia, but those of Komodo are a special family, it is a protected species. I had already met monitor lizards during my previous trips, including :
    - on Tioman Island (Malaysia), where there are some pretty big ones, and rather impressive, to walk along the roadside; I had talked about them here : https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/vendredi-jour-de-repos-et-de-balade-20060714/
    • in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia), where they are a little smaller, and similarly accustomed to lapping near the houses, where they come rummaging in the garbage cans. See here : https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/une-ile-deux-plages-quelques-varans-et-des-bieres-20060630/ I also discuss it here: https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/geekette-on-the-beach-20090705/
    - on the island of Sangalaki (Indonesian part of Borneo), I mention it here : https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/excursion-a-sangalaki-20091025/

    @A World Elsewhere: Unforgettable, that's the word! Unlike you, I've never seen one swim... and I'm not too sure I'd want to have the same experience, with one of these monsters trying to get on board!!!

    @Landry: The stick is adapted. After, you have to know how to use it. As for the sharks, they are on the line!!!

  9. It reminds me of the monitor lizards I saw in Borneo a few months ago. I had no idea that they could be so big, I was alone on a trek around a small island off Kota Kinabalu when "the monster" appeared in front of me at an amazing speed (for its size: almost 2m, it was impressive) to stop in the middle of the path. We looked at each other for 5 minutes before I decided to scare it away with a stick. I had no idea then of the danger that the claws of the bug represented (that I discovered on my photos in the evening).
    Nice meeting in any case! We take a few moments for a knight left to save a princess in an imaginary kingdom!

  10. Hello

    This is really impressive!!! 🙁

    Many thanks for the pictures and the article, I just discovered today this big prehistoric lizard.
    I have never heard of it before, very nice meeting!


  11. I also saw them on Rinca, near... (drum roll) the rangers' hut. Well, we were a little more lucky, there was a wild horse killed by a dragon and one of them had come to eat the remains. Otherwise, we would have made whitewash, even for the other animals, except for the water hens 😉

  12. @Bruno: 😆 I see that we had a similar "adventure". Yet, our guide struggled, trying to find possible animal carcasses, on which the dragons could have come to feed, especially near the water points where the buffaloes come to drink... But nothing. We only came across monkeys, water hens, and a living buffalo...

  13. I reassure you, they are still there and I am still alive! 🙂 I went to Rinca and Komodo last July...These big beasts are really impressive! But I learned a short time ago (only a few months after my visit) that 2 of them climbed into the rangers' hut and bit them! We had a close call!!! 😆

  14. I find your pictures beautiful ^^ but I just wanted to share a discovery: "Their saliva contains very toxic bacteria. "NO "A bite can be fatal. "YES but because of its venom!
    thank you for this beautiful little travel diary